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Meet MASN, a Utah County pop singer going from TikTok success to a new EP of ‘edgy, indie-pop’ songs

(Allison Hunter | courtesy of RCA Records) Mason Rupper, known by his stage name MASN, a 19-year-old indie-pop singer-songwriter from Eagle Mountain, Utah. His first EP, "How to Kill a Rockstar," will be released Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

In an alternate universe, Mason Rupper might be in quarterback drills on a college practice field somewhere, tossing spirals in anticipation of his season opener.

In this universe, Rupper broke his collarbone as a sophomore at Westlake High School in Eagle Mountain, messing up his throwing arm. After briefly playing as a wide receiver, “I quit my junior year, and just randomly decided that I wanted to do music,” Rupper said in a phone interview.

This week, Rupper, 19, is releasing his first EP, “How to Kill a Rockstar,” under his stage name, MASN. The 20-minute EP is seven tracks (one track is a remix of another one) of dark grooves, emotional lyrics and propulsive beats.

MASN’s style is a mix of the rap grooves Rupper listened to in high school and the emotional pop — from acts like Jeremy Zucker and The 1975 — he discovered when he started taking music seriously.

His music is ”in an edgy, indie-pop realm,” Rupper said. “It kind of opened me up to a whole new world of music. Those were way more emotional than what I was used to.”

Rupper, who studied online his senior year, started writing tracks in his bedroom and posting them online. A few tracks generated some buzz — but nothing compared to a song he posted in 2019, called “Psycho.”

“I came across the beat for ‘Psycho,’ and I instantly mumbled the melody for it into my head,” Rupper said. “I wrote the song in, like, five or 10 minutes.” He recorded a demo vocal in the studio, and put it out online.

“It got more streams right off the bat than all my other songs,” Rupper said, adding that he had 10,000 streams in a month. Then YouTube chose it for the streaming service’s “Promising Sounds” channel, exposing it to more listeners. “People started using it in their Fortnite videos on YouTube, and it started to do 100,000 streams a day.”

Soon, Rupper’s management had him in Los Angeles, meeting with record labels. (Ultimately, RCA Records signed him, and is releasing his EP.) “They thought this song had great potential for TikTok,” he said. One idea that clicked, he said, was having people list their pet peeves, backed with Rupper’s lyric, “I might just go psycho.”

MASN’s EP includes two versions of “Psycho”: The original cut, and a remix by rapper Trippie Redd. Rupper counts Redd as one of his inspirations, so having him remix his track “kind of solidifies it, in that circle of people who inspired me to make it in the first place.”

Rupper said he wants the new tracks on “How to Kill a Rockstar” “to be portrayed as a guide to my weaknesses. All the songs are vulnerable songs, so I want it to read as a guide to my vulnerabilities.”

The songs, Rupper said, “just came out of me, like I’m not the one writing the songs. They’re just kind of given to me, from my subconscious or something.”

Some vulnerability, he said, comes from growing up in Utah. “The nature aspect [of Utah] is a huge thing for me,” Rupper said. “The values that, I think, show in the music is the vulnerability and the intimacy of nature.”

That vulnerability comes through in the songs “Fire” and “Hate Me,” the first single — with its chorus, “You could f---ing hate me, and I would say, ‘I love you.’” (Yes, his lyrics are sometimes not safe for Utah County.)

The song was inspired by “girl problems” he and friends have had, he said, creating “a chaotic and kind of toxic back-and-forth relationship.”

The next tracks — “Hold Me,” “Fire” and the two “Psycho” mixes — continue on a similar dark journey. Things lighten up somewhat in the final two songs, the psychedelic “Valium” and the more upbeat “Sleep Party,” which includes a woman’s vocal and the romantic sentiment “I love my life ‘cuz I’m in yours.”

“It kind of makes it nicer to listen to, if you can start off in those really dark songs that hit you really hard, and those other songs are kind of like a breath of fresh air that can pick you back up,” Rupper said.

With the EP coming out, Rupper said, “I’d love to be doing shows” — he’s never done a live show as MASN — but COVID-19 restrictions are keeping live venues closed for now.

“Right now, we’re going to look for whatever opportunities we can to perform, if there are any — whether that’s like at a drive-in or something,” he said.

In the meantime, MASN — who recently moved into his own apartment in downtown Salt Lake City, with a home studio — will create more music, with an eye toward a second EP this fall.

In that way, “not much has changed,” he said. “I still go to the studio by myself, and I’m still able to hang out with the small group of friends. As long as we’re being smart and making sure to stay distant.”

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